CleverDonkey’s Joy-Per-Dollar (JPD) List

Posted on October 29th, 2008 in Commentary,Product Reviews by EngineerBoy


They say that money can’t buy happiness, and they’re right, but there is a certain amount of joy in finding a product or service that provides you with happiness and utility far beyond the purchase price.  These can be inexpensive doo-dads or expensive gew-gaws, the key to making our list is that the product give us smiles that far exceed the pain of parting with the precious pesos.

Here’s the list:

Oxo Good Grips Magnetic Clips (large and small):  We have dozens of these little guys all over our refrigerator, both the large and small versions.  The big ones work great as chip clips and for larger clipping jobs, and the small ones, which actually have stronger magnets, do great at holding pictures/papers/doodads to the fridge, and also for smaller clipping jobs.

Perfect Tear Chrome Paper Towel Holder:  In my lifetime I’ve bolted at least a dozen crappy paper towel dispensers to various walls and cabinets, and they all sucked.  Either the roll would fall out, or it would be so tight that it wouldn’t rotate causing the towels to tear, or it would be so loose that a quick rip would unspool paper towels like a magician pulling a string of handkerchiefs from his sleeve.  The Perfect Tear solves ALL of these problems, plus it’s cheap and it looks great.  The trick is that the rolling mechanism has a ratchet-like feel to it as you turn the roll, putting just enough pressure to be both a) loose enough to allow for easy dispensing and b) tight enough to allow towels to be torn off with a wrist-flick without the danger of a runaway unspooling disaster.  This is the only paper towel dispenser I will EVER buy.

Dogs: Our dogs, Weagle, Biscuit, and Ruckus (plus our cat, Bouncie).  The amount of joy we get from our pets far, far, FAR exceeds any expenses.

SimpleHuman Dish Rack:  Our little country cottage doesn’t have a dishwasher, so we do dishes the old fashioned way – in the sink, then drying on the rack before (theoretically) putting them away.  This little dish rack works EXACTLY like we need it to, and has taken years of use and abuse in stride.

2000 Ford Expedition:  We have a 2000 Ford Expedition Eddie Bauer 4WD with about 120,000 miles on it, and we LOVE it.  Yes, it’s getting a little squidgy around the edges, but it still runs like a top, it’s comfortable as hell, and it holds us, our family, our dogs, and all the crap we regularly haul in it, from groceries to electronics to furniture to gardening supplies to lumber.  Plus, Mynagirl LOVES the seat heaters and EngineerBoy LOVES the cold AC!

Emerilware 12″ Frying Pan:  We bought this frying pan as an add-on to the 10-piece set, which we also love, but we use the frying pan 4-7 times a week and it’s fantastic.  Solid

A Woman’s Place is in the Home (and so is the Man’s)

Posted on October 26th, 2008 in Commentary by mynagirl
Riveter? Check.  Cure cancer? Check.  Housewife? Check.

Riveter? Check. Cure cancer? Check. Housewife? Check.

Human history has seen very few widespread, dramatic changes the likes of which occured with the Industrial Revolution.  The most profound social effect of this is arguably the female influx into the labor force (precipitated, in the United States at least, by the two World Wars), and follow-on women’s liberation movement. Prior to the 1900s, most abrupt changes to the human situation involved physical disaster or nasty, fast-moving microbes.  Thus having minimized much of the destructive natural-world forces via a “perfect storm” of industrialization, sanitation, automation, and mobilization, America could move up a rung on the Maslow Hierarchy and focus on productivity, fulfillment, and equality.  And America’s women could start stepping up and carving out more options from society than housewife, mother, maid, or prostitute.

A child of the 70’s and 80’s, I grew up with Women’s Lib safely tucked in near-recent history and girls being able to grow up to be just about anything they darn near pleased, at least as far as I remember. Not that gender roles didn’t exist — they surely did, especially in Texas. Boys play football; girls are cheerleaders. I had lots of friends whose moms were homemakers. My mom, bless her soul, wouldn’t let me own a Barbie or watch MTV because of the “unrealistic image” both projected of women. 

Probably my sharpest stinging personal memory of gender-role-infliction came in my High School Algebra II class when I was 14 (by this time I lived in Kentucky).   The demon of last-name-alphabetization and higher-math-class-demographics had me not only as the only sophomore but also one of very few girls.  I tended to constantly raise my hand in class — an annoying trait to be sure that will never win you the love of your high school peers, but it beat sitting there bored out of my skull when the teacher continually asked for an answer to a problem and then stared, painfully, into the classroom horizon’s sea of slack-jawed apathy.  So I was a nerd and proffered the right answer a lot in my math class.   After a particularly whiz-bang class period with lots of such participation, the jock-dickhead-popular-boy behind me asked witheringly, “Why do you even bother being smart?  You are just going to be somebody’s housewife someday.” 

Shocking as the statement was, as deserving of a “fuck you” as ever a comment deserved, I sat there mute.  Navigating high school on a daily basis is taxing enough without having to defend your gender and whether or not you’re allowed to use the brains you happen to be born with.  My defense blessedly came from another boy in class — sweet, friendly, not-very-good-at-math Jimmy Flanagan, looking as Irish as his name implies — who asserted I’d probably end up curing cancer.  So in 1988 in Kentucky, I at least had the option of curing cancer or being a housewife.

Once out of Kentucky and out of high school,

The New President Should Immediately Double Public School Teachers’ Salaries

Posted on October 19th, 2008 in Commentary,Politics by EngineerBoy

"Education makes people easy to lead, but difficult to drive; easy to govern, but impossible to enslave." -- Henry Peter Broughan

There are many problems that our new president will face on day one of his administration.  The economy.  War in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Terrorism.  Energy policy.  Global climate change.  Etc.  And I, as an American voter, should expect that important issues will be addressed quickly, with the most urgent issues being tackled first.  When I project to the first 100 days of the new president and speculate as to what will be his first, major policy undertaking – the one that will set to tone for his administration – I realize that there is one over-arching, all-important issue that serves as the foundation of solving all other issues.


Education is the only lever we can use to pry ourselves out of our current morass of apathy, stupidity, ineptitude, tomfoolery, flim-flam, and bullshit.  An educated voting public is the one and only way to preserve and refresh our still-great-but-stumbling nation.

Education is the only pathway to break us out of the fool’s game of dogma, partisanship, and illusion.  Skepticism and critical thinking are the only tools that a voter can use to make truly informed choices.  Intellectual curiosity leads one to question each and every candidate on each and every claim and issue, to make truly informed decisions, and to eschew the hegemony of the Idiocracy.

But how do we get to the point where a discerning population of voters makes informed votes to give us effective leadership?


Well, how do we fix education?  There are so many problems in our public educational systems that it’s like handing a lumberjack and ax and telling him to chop down the forest.  Where to start?  How about by announcing that the federal government will immediately match existing public school teachers’ salaries, effectively doubling their income?  Make teaching a competitive career for truly sharp, motivated people.  Back in the day I would have loved to teach, but not enough to sacrifice a lifetime of more than double the salary doing something else that I also love.  And even if I had gone into teaching way back when, I’m sure I’d be out of it now that it has devolved into being minimum security prison guards getting ground down between apathetic parents, idealogical wars, dingbat board members, and impotent administrators.

But if we double teacher salaries, suddenly the best and the brightest might actually consider teaching our children.  Suddenly the existing tiny core of truly effective, talented, and motivated educators would grow by leaps and bounds to include people across the spectrum of industries and avocations, and break the stranglehold that the mediocre have on the teaching profession in America today.

Seriously, when is the last time you met a truly exceptional public school teacher?  Not exceptional when compared to other teachers, but exceptional when compared across the board with other professionals in all industries and career paths.  Personally,

Colin Powell for President

Posted on October 19th, 2008 in Commentary,Politics by EngineerBoy
President Powell.  Has a ring to it, no?

President Powell. Has a ring to it, no?

We just watched Colin Powell on Meet the Press with Tom Brokaw, and I just have to ask, why isn’t he one of our choices for President?  He is the kind of person that we need in the job, but I don’t think our system can deliver him up, because he’s not a power-hungry, megalomaniacal clown.  He’s a smart, wise, thoughtful public servant, and he’s just what we need in the White House.  Someone with experience and respect on both sides of the aisle, and around the world.

I might waste my vote on a write-in for him.

My Neti Pot Experience

Posted on October 12th, 2008 in Engineerboy,Health and Fitness by EngineerBoy

NOTE:  I am not a doctor and this post is simply me relating my personal experiences.  Consult with your doctor before making any health-related decisions or taking any health-related actions.

Update 10/12/2008 – It has now been TWO YEARS since I’ve had any type of cold, flu, sinus infection, or sore/scratchy throat.  Two years, clean as a whistle, and it’s due almost completely to using the neti pot whenever I feel a tickle/cough coming on, plus using it once a month regardless.  Original article is below, from 12/2/2007.

Neti PotStarting in my mid-20’s (I’m mid-40’s now) I began having recurring respiratory issues.  I considered them to be “colds”, as I was coughing and stuffy with a scratchy throat.  A few times it was bad enough for me to drag myself to the doctor.  Twice it developed into bronchitis.  But, in general, I’d do the Dayquil/Nyquil shuffle for 2-10 days and slog through it as productively as possible.  These events would occur anywhere from 2-6 times per year, with varying intensity.

About a year ago it happened again and I decided that I’d leave my “cold” untreated and see what happened, as I had grown tired of dosing myself with potions.  Predictably, it got worse and worse, and then one morning I woke up and found that all of my upper-teeth were aching and sore.  Some quick web research revealed that this was highly indicitave of a sinus infection (note that none of my previous doctor visits had ever included the diagnosis of a sinus infection, acute sinusitis, chronic sinusitis, etc).

I went to the doc and got some prescription meds that helped knock it out.  The silver lining, however, was that I finally understood that I was getting sinus infections and not “colds”.  Bad on me for not figuring it out sooner, but now my enemy had a name – “sinus infection”.

I’m a fairly logical and pragmatic fellow and I’m not usually easily fooled by hype or marketing or anecdotal evidence.  However, the more I read about the use of neti pots, the more it sounded logical and intriguing.  For those unfamiliar, a neti pot looks kind of like a small plastic or ceramic teapot.  You fill the pot with lukewarm water and salt, and then you stick the spout into one nostril, lean over, and pour the liquid into your sinus cavities, as it drains out the other nostril.  You then switch positions and pour from the other nostril back to the original one.  More info can be found here:

So I acquired a neti pot and salt/baking soda and gave it a try.  The bottom line is that I have not had a sinus infection (or cold/flu) in the past year.  I use the neti pot for nasal irrigation whenever I get a scratch/tickle/runny nose, and also use it once a month regardless.  Note that there are people who claim to use it daily, but that just seems overboard, to me.

Since my 20’s I had

A Voter’s Lament

Posted on October 9th, 2008 in Commentary by EngineerBoy
And this, too, shall pass away

The world will little note, nor long remember, these two chumps

The 2008 US Presidential Election is a month away.  We are approaching the end of nearly two years of constant campaigning by a dwindling pool of potential candidates, and we are down to the final two.  And I have to say, if these two represent the absolute best that America has to offer, we are in a sorry state indeed.

One is a self-described “maverick” who nonetheless has decided to pander to the most intolerant and extreme elements of his constituency, whom he had previously ignored.  The other is a self-described agent of change who picked at 6-term Senator as his running mate and who has professional lobbyists working on his campaign delivering his message of “no lobbyists”.

These are our choices?  Obama or McCain?  One’s too old, the other’s too inexperienced, and neither are natural born leaders.  Obama is certainly articulate, McCain can be folksy, but neither of them come across as speaking from the heart, and neither appears to be able to inspire the American people with their “greatness”.  Say what you will about Bill Clinton, but the man could connect with and inspire people in his sleep (and often did).

Now, they’re both Senatorial material, but that’s it.  Presidential?  Not in the least.  Great leaders?  No.  Bad people?  No, not bad.  Both are politicians, which means they are professional liars, but within the realm of “politicians”, they are two of the least repugnant.

But if our primary criterion for Presidential candidates is lack of repugnancy, then we’re doing it wrong.  We, the people, have allowed the political process to devolve into a game of “gotcha”.  Your grandparents prayed to the wrong god?  Gotcha.  Traded in your first wife for a newer model?  Gotcha.  Didn’t wear a lapel pin?  Gotcha.  Have an occasional hot temper?  Gotcha.

We hold our candidates to superficial standards that don’t allow them to be human beings, and we ignore their actual character and leadership abilities.  Real people are imperfect, but in order to become president one must hide imperfections and appear angelically pure.  That means that, to become president, one has to lie about one’s self.  And we, the people, eat it up with a spoon and end up electing the best liar.  Is it any wonder that things continue to go downhill?

It would be easy to blame the media, because acting as the fourth estate is supposed to be their job, and they are woefully, laughably lacking in the area of serious political journalism.  However, it’s we the people who have allowed the press to become infotainers, and it’s we the people who flock to 24 hour news channels that have to drum up SOMETHING exciting each and every day to hold onto our eyeballs.  And it’s we the people who are happy to be lazy, hypnotized consumers of pre-processed opinions.

We, the people.  The people of the United States of

Did John McCain Pick Sarah Palin In Order to Lose?

Posted on October 5th, 2008 in Politics by EngineerBoy

Okey-dokey, thanks...but no thanks.

I have a theory that John McCain picked Sarah Palin with the express purpose of losing the election.  There can be no other explanation.  This is a woman that he had met only once before naming her as his running mate.  Nobody in the lower 48 had ever heard of her, and as we learn more about her the choice by McCain seems more and more insane.

This is a woman who can’t name a Supreme Court decision, or name a newspaper or magazine that she’s read regularly, and I’m beginning to doubt she can see Russia from her house.  She is so unequivocally unqualified to be Vice President that it’s like we’ve entered an alternate dimension where they’re holding a bizarro-election.

There is no way that her selection has helped the McCain campaign or the Republican party.  It smacks of the Bush administration tactic of breaking any and every law of the land with impunity, right out in the open, and not only not hiding it, but flaunting it and claiming that it’s not only not wrong, but it is in fact right.  And that’s the spin they’re putting on her selection – that she speaks to the everyday Americans, the Joe Sixpacks and Hockey Moms out there who need representin’.  And we all know that if there’s one demographic that is near and dear to the heart of the Republican party, it’s the lower middle-class.

There is simply no way the choice of Palin was made for the purposes of winning the election.  The only explanation I am left with is that John McCain does not want to win this election.  That begs the larger question of…why?  Why wouldn’t he want to win?  I’ve found his campaign to be disappointing, because he seems to have eschewed his actual maverick credibility and become a pandering nincompoop.  He does not appear to be the John McCain that I expected in this race.

Well, what if what he’s doing is falling on his sword in order to protect us from another Republican administration?  What if he got into the Republican primaries without any expectation of winning, but only to stir things up and bring his actual true maverick sensibilities to the party platform?  And then, oops, he won – now what?  He may even know, or at least feel, that he’s too old at this point to be President.  If that were the case, he’d need to make sure that his VP selection was someone not only qualified to be the veep, but also qualified to be President, given the increased probability that his age/health will render him incapable of serving his full term.

Did he do that?  No, he did the exact opposite.  He picked someone who doesn’t even appear to be qualified for the job she has, much less qualified enough to leapfrog to a heartbeat away from the Presidency.

In fact, he picked someone who will almost certainly ensure

Idiocracy (***½)

Posted on October 5th, 2008 in Movie Reviews,Politics by EngineerBoy
We Are Not Men

We Are Not Men

Idiocracy is the latest film by Mike Judge, who also created Office Space.  It was released in 2006, playing in only a handful of theaters with no advance publicity of any kind, and it quickly made the jump to DVD.  However, if there is any movie in recent memory that SHOULD have played endlessly at the multiplexes of America, it was Idiocracy.

As we here in the United States drown in a downward spiral of reality TV, processed foods, bombastic advertising, mindlessly large corporations, zombified workforces, and borderline retarded elected leaders, Idiocracy perfectly describes the water with devastatingly funny, sadly accurate satire and wit.

The story revolves around Joe (Luke Wilson), a current-day soldier who is selected, along with Rita (Maya Rudolph), to participate in a year-long human hibernation study.  However, while they are in stasis, the people in charge of the super-secret study are arrested for unrelated reasons, and Joe and Rita are forgotten about – for 500 years.

When they awaken they are greeted with a future where Joe, initially selected for his averageness, is now the smartest person in the world.  You see, as the movie explains, with no natural predators man has not evolved to favor the most intelligent problem solvers, man has instead evolved to favor promiscuity and dumbness, because that combination leads to the most babies, and the absence of poverty, disease, hunger, or hardship means that those offspring continue to survive and reproduce, causing human intelligence levels to decrease with each passing generation until mankind has reached the point where it can no longer maintain the technology of society, and the collapse of civilization is imminent.

One example of this devolution is that a huge company has signed an exclusive agreement to replace the water in the nation’s water supply with their sports-drink, called Brawndo.  So, everywhere you go the water fountains and faucets supply Brawndo instead of water.  Unfortunately, even the portions of the water supply used for agriculture are replaced with Brawndo, and nobody in the dumbass future understands that plants need water to grow, so there is a looming food crisis.  All this is fostered by ubiquitous advertising which claims that Brawndo’s got electrolytes, which is what plants crave.  Joe, of course, is confused by the ubiquity of Brawndo, and the future-doofuses simply mock him for wanting to drink “toilet water”, as apparently the only place water is still used is for flushing. 

It actually takes a while for Joe to figure out how long he’s been frozen.  When he first wakes up he’s confused and doesn’t feel well, so he stumbles into a hospital for help.  After a reasonably revolting medical test, he meets with a doctor who gives him his diagnosis that:  “…it says here on your chart that you’re all fucked up, you talk like a fag, and your shit’s all retarded.”  Indeed.

Also, in the future most people have at least one brand name as